THEY HAVE been the seven stages of Wait Til Next Year ever since the Raiders returned to Oakland 14 years ago.
4. More bravado.
6. One last burst of bravado.
7. I quit.
Seven games into the season, the 2009 Raiders are already showing signs of Stage 5. That's a pretty lively pace, even by their standards.
"Very disappointing," coach Tom Cable said Sunday after the worst home loss in team history, a 38-0 capitulation to the New York Jets. "We expected a lot more than what we got today."
It certainly was a comedown from Game 6, in which the Raiders beat the Philadelphia Eagles and Cable spoke glowingly of how his team had finally carried the fight to an opponent.
Against the Jets, the Raiders reverted to conscientious objector status.
"I feel like (carrying the fight) is who we have to be," Cable said. "That's what this league demands. We obviously didn't do much of that today."
Sunday's game began with quarterback JaMarcus Russell committing three turnovers (one fumble, two interceptions) in the first quarter, leading to 14 Jets points. He got benched in the second quarter, during which the Jets boosted their lead to 24-0.
Then things got grim.
Let's pause here for a little Football 101. Running the ball, and stopping the run, is a barometer of a team's resolve. Always has been, always will be. The Raiders have been hapless against the run since 2003 — partly because of talent, partly because of scheme, and partly because of the way the team spirals through the seven stages of Wait Til Next Year over the course of a lost season.
This loss featured that dynamic in microcosm. The Jets ran for 36 yards in the first quarter, 16 of those coming on a fake punt that Cable had specifically warned his players to expect. But we digress.
The Jets ran for 109 yards in the second quarter, 77 more in the third quarter, and 94 in the fourth. They finished with 316 rushing yards, the most the Raiders have allowed since 2001. And they made it look easy.
It didn't matter that the Raiders knew the Jets would run, as a means of coddling rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Nor did it matter that Raiders defenders crowded the line of scrimmage anticipating the plays they knew were coming.
"They played exactly the way we thought they would," Cable said.
And yet, as if in a real-life tape loop, the Jets kept blowing holes in the Raiders defensive line. Backs Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones kept breaking tackles, skirting end or leaving Oakland defenders grasping at their jet wash. It got to the point that the Raiders' inability to stop the Jets seemed less tactical than it was spiritual.
"We didn't create turnovers. We didn't stop the run," defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. "I don't think we could have beat an Oakland high school team today."
It would be an overstatement to suggest the Raiders quit. But they appeared resigned to losing. They seemed resigned to being unable to come back from an early deficit given the limitations of their offense and Russell's aptitude for committing jaw-dropping mistakes. They seemed resigned to being unable to stop the run.
Cable was asked, again, about his receivers' propensity for dropping passes.
"It's something we (address) every day," he said, sounding resigned. "We coach our tails off."
Next Sunday will mark the halfway point in the schedule for the Raiders. This is when things start to change. They're already in a position where they'd have to go 8-1 to finish 10-6, and last season the New England Patriots missed the playoffs with an 11-5 record.
Soon enough the playoffs will be an unreachable star, and even a .500 record will seem like a lost cause. There will be a win that leaves the Raiders feeling good about themselves. But soon enough the only question left to be answered — other than the obvious poser regarding Russell — will be whether this team will hit Stage 7 and cash it in.
Not all Raiders teams quit. Some have done so unabashedly and with gusto. This edition seems better equipped than most to complete the season with a modicum of dignity.
It will have to be, because it has been a long time since things looked as bad for the Raiders during a home game as they did Sunday. Never, to be precise.
Contact Gary Peterson at email@example.com.